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Red Tape, Now With More Clickiness!

The beverage industry is fighting for your unalienable right to burp.
The beverage industry is fighting for your unalienable right to burp. (By Ian Waldie -- Bloomberg News)

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Patriotic duty and sympathy for low-paid staffers is the obvious impetus for the industry's largess. But, you know, it doesn't hurt to have goodwill in the right places, especially when doctors and dentists and do-gooder groups try to tax your products to help pay for health-care reform.

The health lobby has even suggested a tax on soft drinks -- one penny per 12-ounce can could bring in $1.5 billion, they estimated -- but it's unclear whether the proposal will get any traction on the Hill.

Still, even the thought of such an evil notion had the beverage industry launching an ad campaign to stamp it out. Wonderful ads began on radio and in newspapers from "Americans Against Food Taxes" -- mostly the beverage and junk-food folks -- that said: "This is no time for Congress to be adding taxes on the simple pleasures we enjoy like juice drinks and soda." Actually, there will never be a time for that. The print ad features a nice couple, who clearly used to hang at the Hotel Eden in Rome, now reduced to pitching a tent and camped on folding chairs by a small pond.

"Middle-class families," many of them morbidly obese, "are struggling to make ends meet," the ad says, "and they know taxes never made anyone healthy -- education, exercise and balanced diets do that." Actually, taxes on tobacco seemed to have a serious impact on smoking.

ALL IN DUE TIME

With a lot on its plate, it's no surprise that the Obama administration didn't get around tout de suite to pick a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration as soon as it got to town. Career agent Michele Leonhart has been acting chief in the interim 19 months since Karen Tandy left the administrator's job.

The years have not been kind to the agency, as the war on drugs receded from the front pages here -- though not in Mexico. The Justice Department has been keeping a tight rein on the agency -- it never even seems to go up by itself to testify on the Hill, usually tagging along with another agency, such as ATF.

But we're told that the administration is working on filling the job and has talked to Leonhart, deputy FBI chief John Pistole, New York assistant U.S. attorney Boyd Johnson (best known of late for leading the investigation of former governor Eliot Spitzer's links with a prostitution service), and former San Diego assistant U.S. attorney Greg Vega about the post, with Pistole and Johnson seen as front-runners.


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